Today we have a very special photographer. I learned about Marc von Martial a while ago when his “Into the Basements” series was featured on kwerfeldein.de. When I saw it the first time, I only looked at the photos and did not read the text; a series of basement windows. This idea was so simple and yet so profound and powerful – it captured a very fundamental part of Germany’s cities, roots, and its culture. You have to know that in the old days these windows where typically used to get stuff, mostly coal, into the basements for heating and almost every house in Germany has a real basement – as in contrast to most(?) houses in the US. Having followed Marc now for some time it was time to learn more about his art.
Please tell us about yourself.
I‘m Marc von Martial, freelancing graphic designer and graphic artist from Bonn / Germany. Apart from taking photos I make my living mostly in the games business for clients all over this world. Digital and boardgames that is. Of course also regular graphic design work for local and national clients.
I can‘t really tell why and when I started taking pictures on a more serious level, just know that I bought my first own camera when I was starting to date my girlfriend, now my wife, back then. She really got me into traveling and I though it was a good idea to take photos then. Unlike many other photographers I do not consider the snapshots I took as a little boy with my parents Agfa as part of my photography vitae ;)
Since two years now I take photos on a different level, with a different look and feel for things then before. Moving to film, Polaroid and old cameras made a big difference in how my photography developed. I‘m thankful for that.
What pushes you to shoot? What do you shoot (for)?
That is actually hard to explain for me. First it was, well it still is, a creative balance to my „dayjob“ as graphic artist in the computer games and boardgames business. These days it becomes more and more a matter of self expression and finding beauty in things that people would not call beautiful at first look. I would go so far that shooting for me is also a way of starting to get myself better known. A lot of my portraits for example have a sensual and romantic touch. I would not call myself to be that super romantic guy on the block at all. Just ask my wonderful wife :). Quite a contradiction that I find very interesting to explore.
My fable for light and how it sculpts everything around us pushes me also. Even when I‘m not shooting I love to observe how light changes everything around us. How quickly moods can change. That is probably why I like spring and autumn so much.
And then, last but not least, there are paid photo jobs that always push me to give 200%.
What is your style?
Not sure if I have a certain style, people say I have :). Anyway, I prefer roughness, the edgy things, that is in my free projects. I love to push film hard for the extra grain, I love to use very expired film for its unpredictable results. Toy Cams, old cameras that barely function properly, pinholes. That is my world.
When you shoot, do you go out with a plan, or do you let it happen?
Sometimes I plan sessions, the general direction at least. But very often the outcome is totally different from what I and my model planned or wanted to do that day. Embracing the general mood I‘m in, and even more important the one my model is in, is something I really like. I let my surroundings inspire me, light that changes, shadows, I try to use all my senses in such sessions.
The two links below show pretty good what can happen when you go out for a photo session with nothing on your mind and just let the surroundings inspire you.
Are there any photographers/artists/role models that influence your work or inspire you?
There are many many talented photographers I follow via flickr or facebook which do really inspiring stuff. It would by hard to tell which of them influence me most. A lot of inspiring photography is coming from Poland.
I find Jan Scholz super inspiring, but who does not :) ? Vernon Trent and Rüdiger Beckmann are also a very inspiring photographers for me. And super nice guys on top of it. Right now, others would be Magda Andrzejewska, Kalua Krynska, Joshua Black Wilkins (not only for his photography), Eduardo Izquierdo, Andrea Hübner, Nancy Eichler, Michael Magin, Jochen Abitz, Jan Bishop, and last but not least Hengki Koentjoro.
But even more important are my photography buddies around me that I see more or less regularly. They all come from different directions and topics of photography and techniques, most of them are strictly film or polaroid shooters. A wonderful mix of people, characters and inspiration. They know who they are ;)
Do you have a specific goal for the development of your photography?
I‘m getting more and more into alternative processes, like cyanotypes, contact printing, some Polaroid experiments etc. My big goal for the next year is to develop my skills with plate cameras and old processes. Really taking it back to the first days of photography.
What projects are you currently working on? How do you allocate time between “private” and “commercial” projects?
I‘m in the process of doing two different Polaroid Portrait series. „into the basements“ needs some more attention also in the next weeks. My big project right now is to finally catch up with developing all those undeveloped rolls of film…
Is there a project you are especially proud of?
Hmm, hard to tell. Not really a certain project. I‘m a little proud that I developed myself and my photography a lot this year. Well, at least I think I did :) only started photographing people in March, it snowballed from there. I like how „into the basements“ developed from a simple camera test into a series.
Is there any specific advice that you have for us?
I guess it would be the pretty standard „go out and shoot“ with my touch of „experiment a lot“ let things happen and embrace moods to inspire you in a photo session. Take it slower, take breaks. I think that is a very important thing.
Now let us have a look at some of your favorite shoots.
Taken in Laos 2010 with a Vivitar UWS. This shot means a lot to me. First as it stands for a super relaxed bicycle tour around Don Khon. And second because it is one of 36 remaining photos from our four week Laos / Cambodia tour. All my digital photos got stolen on the last evening together with the image tank they were saved on. Lesson learned, nobody is going to steal your rolls of film ;)
One of the first portraits I actually took with a Holga. The wonderful soft and low light at one of our attics windows, stand development and Fomapan 400 film are responsibly for it’s edgy look. This photo did succeed in a contest and was also featured various times. People bought prints of it. Which makes me really happy, since I’m a strong believer that photos have to be printed out, on matching paper, to show their full beauty. Screens take so much aways from the dynamic of photography. Let alone the interaction of your senses together with a print in your hands or on a wall.
Kiev 60 / Volna power. A very intense portrait. I like Tabeas gaze here and of course the imperfections of a long expired Kodak Portra 400.
My favorite shot so far from the “into the basement” series. The series was featured a couple of times already with a pretty controversy reception. A love it or hate it thing as it seems. I’m happy how the series has developed so far, especially as the first shot was only a quick camera check. This shot is going to be featured in a exhibition soon, as a large format print. These shots really work best large.
Another shot from the “attic window”. Pentacon Six plus the awesome Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 180mm. I love it’s quietness, although in color.
Love hurts, trust kills. No other word necessary. Taken with the Pentacon Six and the CZJ Biometar. A rough Tmax 400 push development to get the look I wanted for this set of shots.
Thank you very much for your time!
Do not forget to checkout Marc von Martial’s work:
as well as the links above in the text.